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Bioshock Infinite‘s quality may have been the subject of much debate, but what was nary contested was the DLC schedule. The game launched with an optional season pass, but without an announcement as to what that pass would net for the longest time, there were some understandably ruffled feathers. That is, until this Tueday, when alongside the announcement of the upcoming campaign that allows play as Elizabeth, an arena mode was launched on the online marketplace.

As someone who enjoyed Infinite’s combat and its direction, I took it upon myself to discover if an arena/horde add-on was the next logical step.

Clash in the Clouds gives you four maps based on levels in the story mode, with each having fifteen rounds of mowing down enemies. Each of these rounds also has a bonus Blue Ribbon challenge, ranging from only killing enemies with one weapon to using certain Vigor trap combos to simply avoiding damage for a certain amount of time. In between rounds, you can pick up most any weapon you want to take into the next round and buy upgrades from vendors just like in the story mode. All money and upgrades carry over if you die or drop out from a map.

And that’s basically all there is to it from a design brief front. How much you’ll like Clash in the Clouds will depend on how much you like Infinite’s combat, because the maps and scenarios found herein don’t do anything fundamentally or radically different with its mechanics. Its strength still lies in how hectic and flexible your overall toolset is, especially on the skylines, and its primary weakness is still how flimsy Booker is and how resilient the special enemies are in comparison.

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That said, repetition is a problem with this mode. Infinite managed to stave off feelings of oversaturation with how well the combat was spaced out in between the world-building, story-telling and quieter moments, as well as how different each map was. Due to the nature of the horde mode, you’ll be seeing the same environment for a long period of time, given that you have to play all fifteen round of any map in one go. Even with judicious amounts of upgrades and equipment rewards, a full sitting run-through is a hard sell compared to the much longer core game.

But if you liked Infinite’s combat, there’s little reason why you wouldn’t here. The map variations take advantage of its defining features, keeping the open environments and various approaches in the equation, although going for the Blue Ribbon challenges can work against this a bit. Tears are obviously more plentiful, which allows for more opportunities to shape the action but causes more visual clutter. Special enemies also appear a lot more, often in teams, really testing your tactical response time. It’s recommended you’ve beaten the main game before tackling this mode.

This isn’t just to get used to the mechanics and difficulty, but also to avoid spoilers. The main hub houses a gallery in which you can use your money to buy art stills, character models, behind-the-scenes clips and some exposition on a few of the side characters of the story. This will spoil major parts of the story, although there’s a pretty big red flag as to where in the gallery this takes place. There are also some fun oddities like the ragtime renditions of rock classics, alternate design drafts and this.

It wears out its welcome, but for the rather low price, Clash in the Clouds is worth a purchase if you enjoyed the combat enough to want to try a harder variant. The extra gallery sweetens the deal, but isn’t worth it on its own if you enjoyed the story much more than the combat of Infinite.

Or if you didn’t enjoy Infinite at all, obviously.

Bioshock Infinite: Clash In The Clouds is currently available from the Xbox Live Marketplace, PlayStation Network store and Steam for $4.99 US.

Disclaimer: This DLC was independently acquired by the reviewer.

Tagged in: Featured, PC/Mac, PlayStation, PlayStation 3, Reviews, Xbox, Xbox 360

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